I don’t recall the specific passage you may have in mind; but in general, Zizek’s apparent praise for the Haitian Revolution is two-faced, couched in a condescending and racist language which twists facts and ultimately justifies colonialism, past and present. This is discussed at length in this Qlipoth blog post:
“[Zizek] insists, as does this odious film, that he is telling “a true story”, but he modifies the historical record to transform the history of white European expropriation, domination, oppression and exploitation of Haiti and Haitians into a treacly tear-jerker fable of its opposite, white European civilisation, salvation and emancipation of Haiti and Haitians. As in the touching tale of rich white benevolence, in Zizek’s pseudo-histories ideology is truly reality on its head, as Zizek switches the places of producer and expropriator of all values as well as of victim and perpetrator of wrongs, erasing imperialist violence and in its place inserting white superiority and benevolence, erasing the biases of Eurocentric and Eurosupremacist history and replacing it with the biased “politically correct” “liberal multiculturalist” cultural-ideological oppression and intimidation of “we white leftists”, and erasing European expropriation and appropriation and replacing it with African and African-Caribbean imitation, gratitude, emulation.
The formula to which Zizek resorts to provide the old colonialist framework and imply what still cannot be stated explicitly is quite simple, familiar from countless stories of white fulfillment and self-improvement attained by saving black people from themselves. (This is something even very flawed white people are qualified to do). Zizek’s version….is as pure as the Blind Side’s. The fears of Oher that keep the Touhys up at night are matched in Zizek’s Speilbergian scenario by white soldiers’ fear of “some tribal war chant” coming from “the black army”:
The ex-slaves of Haiti took the French revolutionary slogans more literally than did the French themselves: they ignored all the implicit qualifications which abounded in Enlightenment ideology (freedom – but only for rational, “mature” subjects, not for the wild immature barbarians who first had to undergo a long process of education in order to deserve freedom and equality…). This led to sublime “communist” moments, like the one that occurred when French soldiers (sent by Napoleon to suppress the rebellion and restore slavery) approached the black army of (self-)liberated slaves. When they heard an initially indistinct murmur coming from the black crowd, the soldiers at first assumed it must be some kind of tribal war chant; but as they came closer, they realized that the Haitians were singing the “Marseillaise,” and they started to wonder out loud whether they were not fighting on the wrong side. Events such as these enact universality as a political category.
There are no grounds in the historical record for this detail. It is expertly camouflaged as some kind of thoughtlessly ejaculated - and thus insignificant - “excess” and “sloppiness”, but it is a precisely calculated to be thus defended against objection (as too small and unpremeditated a point) and to allow for the plausible deniability of the pleasures the fans derive. The fiction is packed with revisionist hints that replace history with throwback colonialist adventure stories for boys. It would be odd for French soldiers to be surprised that French citizens should be singing French songs. But Zizek’s fable manages to cloud the (amply documented) reality to suggest instead a 19th century colonial cartoon, and to excuse his invention by implicitly attributing it to some unnamed soldiers from the metropole modelled on characters one would expect to find in such popular propagandistic stories. This imaginary foil expectation (“some tribal war chant” issuing from “primitive blacks” which he intensifies elsewhere as “half-ape blacks”) is arranged to situate the Marseillaise, and the white soldiers’ epiphany of universalism it triggers, as proof of the efficacy and virtue of the European white supremacist civilising mission. This epiphany is of course defined as white men realising black men can be their equals - or nearly - if put through a sufficiently stern but generous apprenticeship. This packet of hints combine with the previous hint offered by visions of black Haitians, simple as they were, taking white French Ideas too “literally”, to produce history as a minstrel show skit. The 19th century stereotype of childlike, imitative “negroes” is evoked to transform the history of African-Caribbean freedom struggle into one of successful and magnanimous, if comical, colonial tutelage, within a fictionalised context governed by the unquestioned assumption that “equality” and “liberty” were actually concepts invented by white French bourgeois men. Contact with this incomparably creative intellectual force, German spirit, white genius, inspired the enslaved to revolt, Zizek insists - and thus to attempt “premature” liberation and self-rule. Failure was inevitable, Zizek assures us, but the attempt is proof of the worthiness and validity of the civilising mission.
The Haitian Revolution truly deserves the title of repetition of the French Revolution: led by Toussaint ‘Ouverture, it was clearly “ahead of his time”, “premature” and doomed to fail, yet, precisely as such, it was perhaps even more of an event than the French Revolution itself.
It is not, as some defenders of Zizek will insist, that Zizek is evoking some other racist’s ideas about the barbarism and immaturity of the Haitians and the precipitant haste of their slave revolt and later war of independence. Rather it is Zizek himself asserting the accuracy of this Hegel-ish take and bringing forward history as proof. Of course, he explains, Haitians could not effectively seize the liberty and self-govenrment of which the French white bourgeoisie taught them to dream, but how touching and remarkable that they even tried to imitate their masters! (This is again a repeat of the same narrateme…Mrs. Touhy fearing theft and violence but elated to see the folded sheets; the French soldiers fearing “the black army” singing “some tribal war chant” but astonished to hear the Marseillaise; “you white leftist men and women” and Zizek not expecting much from “half-ape blacks” and breathlessly impressed with the astonishing attempt to realise French principles! And of course your joy at the sight evidences your white virtue.)
This all is designed to give Zizek’s readers the same pleasures the white Blind Sideaudience derives from the infantilized Oher and the wondrous efficacy of his simple-minded “literal” interpretation of his white guardian’s directive to protect his team as he would his white family.
The invention of the averted menace of “some tribal war chant” and the ensuing proof of “universality” (black men can also attain the demigodlike condition of “French-ness”) is Zizek’s white-entitled Hollywoodizing of events beyond recognition (and anarchronistically infusing his tale with the image vocabulary of a 19th century race theory he is devoted to reviving) using for pretext the well-known passage from Pamphile de Lacroix’ memoires of the campaign (cited by CLR James and others). His fictionalising works in precisely the same way as The Blind Side and aims for the same effects, titillating a white audience with a brush with savage black danger and its overmastering by white dominance, encouraging and affirming this audience’s white supremacist contempt, while allaying its fear and stroking its vanity.
That “some tribal war chant” which Zizek envisions his white protagonists fearing they hear from, in his words, “half-ape blacks whose grandparents jumped in trees like apes in Africa,” evokes a whole scenario from colonial propaganda’s imagery of savage blackness which continues to be exploited by Hollywood (for example elaborately in Blood Diamond and Amistad) though usually not with as open a relish and bravado as one finds in Zizek and his fans. (Though these scenes have been provided with a similar alibi: Speilberg’s inexcusable opening Amistad sequence was frequently defended, just like Zizek’s endless stream of racist imagery, as some other racist’s vision offered only to be “subverted” and repudiated by the subsequent joyful revelation of the gentle nature and educability of Cinqué and the other Amistad escapees). Like Mrs. Touhy’s elation as her fears are proven unfounded (at least in this instance, and the implication, as with Zizek, is that the relief is exceptional good luck, and a lesson that not all Young Black Men are wilding superpredators or irredeemable), Zizek stages the joyous discovery - the savage “blacks” are civilised after all, they sing French songs!
Unsurprisingly, Zizek further lards his Haitian History fable, freely adapted from “a true story” and ending with a celebration of Haiti’s post-Independence liberty and prosperity that was the gift of French colonisation and Enlightenment, with other Hollywood formula scenes, uplifting, “sublime moments” exhibiting white “authenticity”, heroism and goodness. Inviting his reader/audience to share in the tearful sentimentality of white self-celebration, Zizek parades the true greatness of “white culture” and its emancipatory Enlightenment while all the inconvenient details of history are washed away in the deluge of emotional fluids provoked. His aim is to confirm his audience’s feeling - not to convince but to seduce and massage - that white supremacist empire’s violence (which yes yes must be acknowlegded) is merely accidentally factual, not of the essence, while its justice and benevolence are manifestly destined Truth. So very soon Zizek shows us Toussaint Louverture on a victory tour in Paris surrounded by a wildly cheering audience of Jacobins…
Arguably the most sublime moment of the French Revolution occurred when the delegation from Haiti, led by Toussaint l’Ouverture, visited Paris and were enthusiastically received at the Popular Assembly as equals among equals.
…see it, the steadycam whirl about him, the jubilation all around, with this vindicated and triumphant black hero at the centre.
(It didn’t happen quite that way, you say? Killjoy, hater?)
And Zizek takes pains, as does the Blind Side, to stress the (special) black object of proper and successful white civilising mission is not to be feared. The carefully chosen primitive pupil can be awed and made loyal, trained to put the interests of “the family first”, as Oher lives to “protect the family” and excells as a lineman.
It was the first time that an enslaved population rebelled not as a way of returning to their pre-colonial “roots”, but on behalf of universal principles of freedom and equality.
The message and its powerful appeal to white supremacist sentimentality is the same - protecting the quarterback, protecting the European “enlightement project”. True superiority will earn respecta and subservience. Not only are actual African, African-Caribbean and indigenous American culture and history erased from the revolutionary history of the late 18th-early 19th centuries, their absence is openly applauded as a civilisational advancement: Zizek applauds the Haitian rebels specifically for purportedly discarding African culture, hopelessly backward and parochial, for supposedly indigenous French/European culture labelled “advanced” and “universal”. The “particularism” of the exploited revolting against the exploiters, self-emancipating and unified as a class, is demonised as backward and savage, while history is revised into fictions to offer reassurance that properly mastered by white civilisers (preposterously credited with inventing justice and liberty and democracy), black objects of benevolence (ludicrously portrayed as needing to have their consciousness modernised by a beleaguered slave-owning capitalist bourgeoisie trying unsuccessfully to throw off a decrepit feudal and Absolutist cultural and political superstructure) will be grateful and willingly subordinate. But in order to tame the black savages and teach them their duty to fight for the protection of the “universal Man” that are the white bourgeoisie, the white civilisers have to understand and accept their own superiority, their universality as entitlement to own the universe, their Hegelian historical mission, and, today as before, the truth of their/our history:
The French colonized Haiti, but the French Revolution also provided the ideological foundation for the rebellion which liberated the slaves and established an independent Haiti; the process of decolonization was set in motion when the colonized nations demanded for themselves the same rights that the West took for itself. In short, one should never forget that the West supplied the very standards by which it (and its critics) measures its own criminal past…
…[Once having grasped that great white intellect liberated the black Haitians], we white Leftist men and women are free to leave behind the politically correct process of endless self-torturing guilt.
Note also that Zizek’s apologetic and voluntarist argument-”that the West supplied the very standards by which it (and its critics) measures its own criminal past”-comes from nearly the opposite premise of Chesterton’s more old fashioned (but in general fundamentally sounder, imo) Thomistic idea that equality is a natural* notion that is latent in humanity everywhere, which is precisely why it is so powerful. Chesterton’s contention is that egalitarianism was a fundamentally ancient idea found everywhere that was then here and there made actual by revolutions; Zizek is saying that equality was a radically new idea that came out of Europe and which no else one would have understood without Western tutelage.
A fully coherent and thought out meditation on these issues would go beyond both of these baldly stated viewpoints; but even a cursory glance would see which proposition is more on the side of liberty.
*in the sense of not being a truth of revelation, not in the sense that it wouldn’t require education and socially habituation to be bought out from the blindness of merely biological existence.